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Kittens    Empty Kittens

Post by Ladybug on Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:53 am

"And there we are," said Avner. He pulled the bandage once more and finished the wrapping around the boy’s hand. Dan around a sniffled a bit but held himself bravely. "All set." He patted his hand gently, careful not to press hard enough to cause him pain.

"Aren't you gonna heal it?" asked Dan, pouting. He poked at the bandage.

Avner gently nudged the five-year-old’s hand away. "Don't pick at that." He stroked the boy's hair. "It will heal. We've put the right medicine on it, so you won't get sick from that, and the bandage will keep out the dirt."

"But aren't you gonna heal it?" repeated Dan. "I seen you do it!"

"I've seen," corrected Avner. He closed his hand around his son's good hand. "Petitioning is not a toy, Dan. This is a small thing and will get better on its own. We save petitioning for the really bad ones."

Dan sniffed again. "But it hurts," he whined.

"It will do that," said Avner. "But how about you keep that as a lesson?"

"Mama says I don't have to go to school till next year. So I don't gotta lesson." He smiled broadly, sure his father would be unable to pierce the iron hide of his argument.

"It's never a bad time to learn," said Avner. He chuckled as the boy deflated. "So tell me, how did this happen?"

Dan shrugged and looked at the ground.


He shook his head.


Dan thought a moment. "If I said I got it defendin' Lana from a fierce beastie, would you petition it?"

Avner chuckled. He'd recently started training Lana in swordsmanship after she'd expressed a desire to join the standing militia like him. The hypothetical was unlikely to say the least. "No, I wouldn't." He patted the boy's head. "But I would say that you were a very brave boy for doing that for your sister. Now did that happen?"


Avner sighed. "Dan, you want to make sure this won't happen again, don't you?"

"No," said Dan in a hesitant tone that only the worst of liars could manage.

Avner just looked at him. "You want to get hurt again?"


Avner sighed. "Dan, you need to tell me."

Dan's eyes widened, and he shook his head. "But I don't want to get traded to travelin' merchants!"

There was a long pause. "What?" asked Avner, stroking his beard in confusion. "How do merchants have anything to do with this?"

Dan's jaw clamped shut, and he shook his head.


"Lana said she'd sell me if I told!" cried Daniel. He froze a moment as he realized what he'd said, and he immediately clamped his free hand over his mouth. "I di'nt say that," he said through his fingers.

Avner sighed. "Lana!" he called. No response. "Lana, get in here!" Still no response. Avner shook his head. Handful as the girl could be when left to her own devices, she came when called. This was odd for her. He turned again to Dan. "Where is your sister?"

Lana was in fact unable to hear him. There was a storage shed at the back of the house, and she had barricaded it from the inside. In one hand, she held a burlap sack. Balanced in her other arm was the jug of milk, a hunk of chicken left over from the previous night that was likely meant for a stew, and a large flat plate. Precious little light crept into the small space, but it was enough. She set the plate on the ground, lay the meat inside, and filled it with milk. She then set the bag down and held it open. She was greeted with a mewing sound.

"All right, you can come out. Sorry!" she said with a smile.

A small parade of kittens, six in all, strolled out, some trying to climb over each other. They beelined for the plate, happily lapping up the milk.

"Oh, you were hungry!" she cooed. She hadn't been sure if they would want either milk or meat. She didn't know much about kittens, but they looked big enough to handle the chicken, at least to her untrained eye.

One in particular broke away from the others to rub against her wrist as she crouched on the ground. Lana smiled and picked up the kitten, leaning forward. Her messy braid fell over her shoulder, and the kitten batted at the swinging black rope. Lana stroked the kitten's head, earning a purr in response.

"Lana!" Avner's voice finally reached her.

She cringed. This was not going to be fun. Lana glanced quickly around the shed, spied a length of canvas, and hurled it over the kittens. "Shh!" she said. She gathered up the milk and opened the door, racing back to the house.

Avner was waiting in the kitchen as she returned with the milk jug. "Yes, Father?" said Lana.

"I've been calling you for five minutes," he said.

"I'm sorry. I just heard you a moment ago." She walked to the icebox and put the milk away. "What's the matter?"

"Thirsty?" asked Avner.

"What?" She blinked. "Oh! Yes, I was."

Avner nodded. "Now that that's taken care of, do you mind telling me what you've been telling your brother?"

She looked at the ground. "What makes you think I've said anything?"

"You're a poor liar, Lana. Stop it. You know your mother and I hate lying."


Avner sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Now why were you threatening to sell your brother?"

"Cause he's a telltale," said Lana, wrinkling her nose in surprise that this was news to her father.

"I ain't!" cried Dan.

"Are so," said Lana. "What're you going to do, tell on me?"

"Yes!" said Dan.

Lana just looked at her father as if to say, "See?"

Avner shook his head. "Lana, you know better than to threaten your brother."

"Yes, sir." She dragged a foot on the ground behind her.

"Now, how did your brother get hurt?" asked Avner.

"Why don't you ask him?"

Avner looked at her flatly. "He said he won't say."

Lana sighed. "Dan, I won't sell you to merchants."


"Really." She shrugged and, unable to resist, added, "Won't get a high enough price cause of the smell."

"Eglantine Rose!"


Dan snickered. "Eglantine Rose," he repeated.

"Oh, quiet!"

"Both of you!" said Avner, scarcely raising his voice. Both children fell silent. "Lana, you're old enough to know better. What happened?"

She shrugged. "I told him not to pull her tail, but he did, and she got mad." She glared at her little brother. “Told you.”

"Her?" asked Avner.

"We found a cat."

"So, Dan," said Avner, "you need to remember to be nice to animals, and they should be nice to you in return."

"I just wanted t'pet her!"

"It hurts her when you pull her tail, though," said Avner. "You have to be careful. Cats are little." Avner stood, picked up Dan from the table, and set him on the floor. "You, however, are getting big." He turned to Lana. "Is that all?"

Lana nodded. "Can I go?"

Avner frowned. "Didn't your mother want you to help her this afternoon?"

"Well, she said I could take the day since you wanted me to watch Dan. I can just finish my embroidery tomorrow."

Avner nodded. "You like sewing?"

"I want to try the loom."

He smiled. "Well, maybe she'll start you on that soon. Go on."

Lana turned and ran out, stopping briefly by her mother's workroom. She saw her back was turned and snatched up some yarn still tangled from an incident a few days prior. She darted off before Alicia could turn around.

Moments later, she was back at the shed. She pulled the tarp off the kittens, none of whom had seemed to mind. She set the yarn down and picked up a small strand of it. "I'm back," she said. "I brought a toy!" She dangled the yarn just above their heads. Two kittens took to it more readily than the rest, one of which was the one with the patchy - well, most of them were patchy, really. Patchiest, then - coat that seemed to have adopted her. They batted at the string and, when Lana dropped it, playfully attacked it.

The shed door creaked open. Lana whirled around, trying to block the kittens from view. Small as he was, Dan cast a meager shadow in the doorway.

"Dan," said Lana. "Don't you dare-"

"I'm telling Papa," he said. "You said you were gonna take them to town."

"This is town," she said.

Dan scowled at her and turned, running back to the house. Lana winced. This was not going to end well. She cast a glance at the kittens before running after him, making certain to close the door so they couldn't get out.

Due to her slow start, she was unable to beat Dan to their father. Avner looked less than thrilled.

"But-" Dan was saying.

"Dan, honey, I need to get back to work. My lunch break has already been a very long one. Stephen and Quincy need me."

"But Papa!"

"Dan, is anyone in danger of dying?"

Dan hesitated. "No..."

"Is anyone going to be badly hurt or get sick?"


He knelt down and grasped him by the shoulders. "Then I promise you, it can wait." He kissed him on the cheek. "Now please be good for your mother and sister."

Dan pouted. "But it's important!"

"I'll be back for dinner." Avner stood and turned to leave, catching sight of Lana. "Please keep your brother out of trouble." He kissed her cheek as well. He hesitated. "And not by tying him to the bed."

"I was nine, Father," said Lana. "And if you know a better way to keep a two-year-old still, I'd love to hear it."

Avner sighed. "You're both older than that now. Just..." he sighed. "Try not to disturb your mother too much. She needs to finish that order for Mr. Booker today."

"Yes, sir," said Lana.

Avner ruffled her hair and walked to the door.

"Lana has kittens!" Dan blurted out.

Avner froze. Lana closed her eyes and sighed. So close. Dan smiled.

"What?" said Avner.

"Lana brought home kittens."

Avner looked Lana in the eye, or tried to, as she was now staring at the floor. "Show me," he said.

Avner opened the door to the shed and watched the kittens at play on the floor. Lana smiled sheepishly and picked up her favorite. "Aren't they adorable?"

"Lana, adorable is not the question," sighed Avner. He massaged his temples. "Why did you bring them here?"

She dodged his gaze. Her eyes fell on Dan's smug grin. She glared at him. "I kind of had to."

Avner frowned. "What do you mean, you had to?"

She shrugged. "Well, Dan's the one who wanted to throw rocks in the creek."

Avner sighed. "Dan, your mother and I have told you to stay away from there until you've gotten better at swimming." He turned back to Lana. "Go on."

Lana smiled, seeing Dan's face fall. "Anyway, we were throwing rocks, and I saw a bag stuck on a branch. So I went to get it out. There were kittens in it." Her face fell. "Father, why would someone throw a bag of kittens into the river?"

He was silent a long moment before continuing, "Lana, you know that people can't always afford pets."

"Wouldn't it be easier and kinder to try and find them homes?"

"Kinder, yes," said Avner. He sighed. "Easier, no."

"But these have a home now," said Lana. "Don't they?"

Avner closed his eyes and sighed again. "Lana, we'll discuss later."


"I need to talk to your mother first. But now, I do very much need to return to work." He shook his head. "Please try to stay out of trouble."

They watched him race off around the corner of the house and into the road. Lana was always astounded at just how fast he was despite never seeing him in full sprint. She'd once asked him how he got so fast, and he'd responded with a simple, "Used to be a solider." He never gave her more than that, and she'd stopped asking.

Dan brought her back to the present. "Why'd you tell about the river?"

"Why'd you tell about the kittens?"

He shrugged. "I dunno."

Lana sighed. "Do you just like getting me in trouble?"

Dan looked at the ground. "Well, Mama and Papa like you better."

"No, they don't," said Lana.

"Then why do they do stuff with you and not me?"

Lana raised an eyebrow at him. "Because you're five, and you can't do the stuff they're doing with me."

"Can so!"

"Danny, you can't even lift a sword. And I do things with Mother because I'm her apprentice. No one starts apprenticing till they've done some school." She shook her head. "They do things with me because I help them with work. When you're big enough, they'll do things with you, too. And they like you just fine."

"Really?" said Dan.

"Really," said Lana. She smirked. "Assuming you don't turn into a cat first."

The horror-struck look on his face made it all worth it. "What?"

"You got bit, didn't you?"

"Papa would have fixed it!"

"Oh, he wouldn't know unless he checked it with petitioning."

"He didn't," said Dan. His lip quivered.

Lana sighed. "Oh, stop that! I'm just teasing you." She threw an arm around his shoulders. "You're fine."

"You're a bad sister," muttered Dan.

Lana ruffled his hair. "And you're a bad brother. We match."

He stuck his tongue out at her. "Can I play with them?" he asked, looking at the kittens.

"Sure," said Lana. "So long as you don't pull their tails again."

Avner returned home in the early evening to find Lana cooking a stew made from combining several things from the icebox that probably should not have gone together. He looked at her.

"Mother still busy?"

Lana nodded. "Should be done soon. She asked me to make supper."

Avner eyed the pot warily. "I can see that. You're very helpful, Lana."

She beamed at him.

"Here," he said, gently ushering her away from the stove. "Let me finish this. You and Dan bring in your kittens from the shed."

"My kittens?" asked Lana.

Avner sighed. "The kittens you found that we have not yet come to a decision on regarding ownership. Not yours yet but easier to refer to as such."

She rolled her eyes and swept out of the room.

They returned several minutes later with the bundles of fluff in their arms, all struggling to break free. The kittens were placed on the ground, and Dan dropped a bit of yarn amongst them, watching them fight playfully over it.

Lana returned to the stove. She sniffed the stew. "You put something in it."

"Yes," said Avner, saying no more on the subject.

Alicia entered the kitchen, her curly hair a mess, and her eyes showing clear signs of sleep deprivation. Nonetheless, she smiled at her family. "I've finished," she said, sinking into a chair at the table. Her eyes narrowed as they settled on the kittens. "Avner?" she asked.

"Yes, dear?"

"When did we get those?"

Avner sighed. "That was actually something I was planning on talking to you about tonight." He looked at Lana and Dan, the former of which was cuddling the patchy coated kitten to her cheek.

Alicia cleared her throat. "Lana, sweetheart, can you explain this to me?"

Lana swallowed and lowered the kitten, settling for merely cradling her. "Dan and I found them in a sack on the riverbank. Someone tried to drown them. So I rescued them and brought them home. Can we keep them?"

"Oh," said Alicia, blinking. "I don't know."


Alicia sighed. "Lana, I don't think we can afford to keep six cats. I don't know that we need any. Who would take care of it? Save Dan, our days are tied."

"Actually," said Avner, "I believe most cats are self-sufficient and don't mind being left to their own devices now and again." He coughed. "That said, your mother's right. We can't keep them all."

Lana sighed. "Can we at least make sure they go to a good home?"

"Of course," said Avner. "I'll start looking tomorrow during lunch."

Alicia smiled. "It shouldn't be too difficult. Plenty of people would be glad of a ratter."

Lana smiled as she pulled the needle through for the final time. "Done," she said, proudly holding up the cloak.

Alicia came over to inspect it. "Stitching is very nicely done, and the design is well-placed. Any reason you decided to put an ivy strand on the hem?"

"You said this was for a lady who wanted some ornamentation but not a lot. A flower would have been too showy, but ivy leaves are smaller, and they stand out against the white." She frowned. "This is going to get absolutely filthy."

"It is," said Alicia. "But it's what was asked fr, and you did well with it.

Lana beamed and folded the cloth carefully. She set it on the table. "When will you be done with the dress?"

"With luck, tomorrow," replied Alicia. "Would you like to help with the skirt?"

Lana nodded. "You've already taken her measurements?"

"First thing. It's the green bolt over there, and the numbers should be right by it."

She stood and hurried over to other table, gathering up the materials she needed. She had just returned to her workstation, lightly pushing aside the cloak, when she heard the door bang open.

"Alicia?" called Avner.

"In here," replied Alicia.

Moments later, he poked his head around the corner of the doorframe. "Got a man here about the kittens."

Lana perked up and jumped to her feet. "Already?"

Avner nodded. "Will you go and get them, Lana?"

Lana nodded once and darted off to the shed. Avner had told her to keep them in there for the time being so they wouldn't make too great a mess. They seemed happy to see her, all fighting to rub against her legs. She glanced around the shed, eyes falling on a basket. She set it on the ground and placed the kittens inside, one by one. One, two, three, four, five. Five?

She frowned. "Where's your sister?" she asked the first kitten, leaning down close. He batted a paw at her, hitting her nose. Lana exhaled in frustration.

"Lana!" called Avner.

"Coming!" she yelled back. There would be time to look for her later, but Father needed to return to work. She picked up the basket and ran back to the house.

Once she returned, Avner eyed the basket. "Hiding one?"

Lana shook her head. "She was hiding herself. You seemed in a hurry, though, and I can look for her later."

Alicia called, "Go look for her now."

She looked to her father, hoping her expression was a suitable one for begging. It fell flat, and Avner gestured for her to go. Her shoulders sagged, and she trudged back to the shed.

Her disappointment shortly gave way to anger. She moved everything in the shed, practically cleared it out, and found nothing. The kitten was either invisible or had run off. She returned to the house, fully aware of the cobweb stuck to her hair.

"Are you all right?" asked Lars Farmer.

Lana nodded. "She wasn't there."

Avner sighed. "Five kittens suit you?" he asked.

"More'n enough, Avner. You mind if I only take three?"

Avner blinked, clearly having hoped to take care of them all right away. "That's fine, Lars."

"Thank ye kindly." He bent down, picked up the largest three, and carefully balanced them in one arm. "Oh, I heard Mr. Carson was fightin' a rat problem if you're needin' to find homes for the others."

"Thank you," said Avner, grinning. "I'll be sure to try him."

Lars tipped his hat and left.

Avner turned to Lana. "Were you hiding her so I'd let you keep her?"

Lana paused a moment, blinking. "I could have done that?"

"No," sighed Avner. "No, you couldn't. You have no idea where she is?"

She shook her head. "Sure isn't in the shed, that's certain." She sighed and looked up at him. "I really can't keep one?"

"Lana, sweetheart," said Avner, "we just don't have the attention to give a pet. It's a big responsibility."

"I'm responsible!" protested Lana.

"Yes, but you're also very busy learning from your mother and me. You don't have the time to care for a kitten."

Lana looked at the ground. "I'd take good care of her."

"I know you would," said Avner, pulling her close in a one-armed hug. "But would you set aside your pocket money to pay for her care? She'd be your cat. Yours and Dan's if he decided he wanted to help."

She nodded. "I'd pay for her."

"Food, veterinarian visits, toys?"

"Everything," said Lana.

Avner closed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. "All right. If your mother says it's all right, we can try keeping one."

Lana leapt to her feat. "Oh, thank you!" She threw her arms around him in a tight hug and kissed his cheek.

"If," Avner added, "you can find her."

Lana shrugged. "I'll just leave some food out. She'll turn up."

Avner smiled. "If you say so."

Lana stopped a moment for breath, leaning against her father. He paused midstep and waited. She looked at him. "Why does Mr. Carson have to live so far out of town?" she asked.

"Because he needs space for the ranch," said Avner. "Would you like me to take a turn with the basket?"

"No," said Lana. "I said I'd carry it. I'm going to carry it."

A few minutes later, the gate of Carl Rancher's property came into view. The property was far less abuzz with activity than usual, due to the end of the racing season and the beginning of the harvest. Philip Carson stood at the fence of the nearest pasture, watching several horses trot along the perimeter.

"Morning, Philip," called Avner.

"Avner," said Philip, tipping his hat. He glanced down and added, "Miss Lana. What brings you out here?"

"Rats," said Avner. "Heard you had a problem with them."

"And I take it a healer can fix that."

Avner laughed. "No, can't say that I can. But she might." He nudged Lana forward.

Lana smiled and offered him the basket. "Dan and I found these. I was wondering if you'd like them."

Philip peered inside. "Kittens? Bit small. Still trainable, then." He nodded. "Kind of you."

"It's nothing," said Lana. "I'm just glad they're not ending up back in the river."

Philip froze in the middle of picking up one of the pair. "River?"

Avner sighed. "It's why we have them to give away. Thank you, Philip. Come along, Lana."

"Any time, Avner." He smiled warmly.

Lana and Avner walked back to town, or, as would be slightly more accurate to say, Lana gave up after two miles and allowed Avner to carry her piggyback most of the remaining three.

"Can we stop at the market before we go home?" she asked as he set her down on the road.

"What for?"


Avner wrinkled his nose. "Fish? Since when do you like fish."

"I've always liked fish. But this is for Pallette."

"Who's Pallette?"

"My kitten," said Lana. "Cause of her colorful coat."

Avner shook his head. "I'd go with Cinders after where we found her. What was she doing in the fireplace?"

"Being very glad the weather's still warm." Lana stuck out her tongue.

Avner gently poked her forehead. "Very well, we can make a quick stop. But then straight home for you."

"It's almost like you don't trust me."

"I don't want another pet so soon."

Lana grinned. "So we can't stop by the stables?"

Avner stopped dead in his tracks and stared off down the road. Lana frowned. "Father, it was a joke."

"Jokes are funny."

Posts : 1023
Join date : 2012-05-08
Age : 30

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